Tag Archives: Habitat for Humanity

Carter earns even higher praise just by showing up

Jimmy Carter just turned 95 years young.

Then he fell at home. He is wearing a doozy of a shiner under his left eye. He took some stitches to repair cuts he suffered when he took the spill.

So what does the former president of the United States do? Does he sit at home and mope because he had a clumsy spell? Does he sulk and pout?

Oh, no. He travels to Tennessee. He picks up a hammer, some nails, a power drill — and builds houses for folks who need help from those with generous souls and spirits … such as President Carter. Habitat for Humanity has been one of the former president’s passions since he left office in January 1981.

My goodness. This man has become my hero.

God bless you, Mr. President.

Happy birthday, Mr. President

James Earl Carter is a force of nature.

He builds houses for poor people; he writes books; he lectures Americans on the value of ethics in politics; he teaches Sunday school at his rural Georgia church; he has monitored elections around the world; he lives modestly with his wife of more than seven decades.

Today he becomes the oldest former president of the United States. He already holds the record for living the longest past the time he left office; he exited the White House in 1981, which means he has lived 38 years past his presidency.

President Carter turns 95.

He has beaten cancer. He ran for president more than four decades ago, defeating a crowded field of Democratic Party primary foes. He ran a tough and bitter race against an embattled incumbent, Gerald R. Ford, and won with 297 electoral votes, which reflected his narrow popular vote majority; he and President Ford would then forge a friendship that lasted until Ford’s death in 2006.

President Carter lost his bid for re-election in a landslide to Ronald Reagan in 1980, but he didn’t skulk off to pout over his loss. Instead he poured his energy into building the Carter Center in Atlanta and then building houses for Habitat for Humanity, a faith-based organization that does the Lord’s work around the world.

I will not engage in a debate over whether he was a successful president. I will say that he has been the most consequential former president in the past century, or maybe even longer than that.

President Carter is getting lots of good wishes from around the country and the world today. This good and godly man deserves all of them.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.

Wondering how Trump will transition into a former POTUS

Former President Jimmy Carter’s surprisingly tart assessment of Donald Trump’s “legitimacy” as president has prompted me to start thinking about the future.

I’ll explain in a moment.

Carter said Trump was elected president only because the Russians hacked into our electoral system in 2016 and pushed him across the finish line ahead of Hillary Clinton. He is challenging the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency. Trump, quite naturally, fired back. He called Carter a “failed president” and has dismissed the former president’s assertions about the legitimacy of the 2016 election result.

“Look, he was a nice man. He was a terrible president. He’s a Democrat. And it’s a typical talking point. He’s loyal to the Democrats. And I guess you should be,” Trump told reporters in Japan, where he attended the G20 meeting. “As everybody now understands, I won not because of Russia, not because of anybody but myself.”

Historians are still chronicling Jimmy Carter’s single term as president, from 1977 to 1981. However, the jury has returned a verdict on the 39th president’s time since leaving the White House. It has determined that Carter’s dedication to humanitarian causes, to free and fair elections, to his work with Habitat Humanity, his return to a modest lifestyle and his dedication to biblical teaching has made him arguably the greatest former president in U.S. history.

While the current president fires off tweets and makes preposterous statements about President Carter’s legacy, I am left to wonder: What kind of former president will Donald Trump become?

The good news for all of us is that Trump will not be president forever. He’ll either be gone after the 2020 election or he’ll exit the White House, per the Constitution’s requirement, after the 2024 election. I shudder at the prospect of Trump winning re-election.

It is fair to wonder, though, about several aspects of a Trump post-presidential era.

What will this individual do to further the agenda he has sought to build as president? Is this man capable of dedicating himself to good work, to establishing a foundation that seeks to promote some noble endeavor? Can you imagine him working with poor nations, the places he once referred to as “sh**hole countries” as they seek to rid themselves of violence or repression? Is it within anyone’s realm of imagination to picture Donald Trump throwing himself into inner-city turmoil, working with young people to help guide them to productive lives?

Thus, when I hear Donald Trump denigrate a former president, such as Jimmy Carter, who has become the epitome of character, grace, humility, integrity and dignity I am forced to ponder whether No. 45 is even in the same league as No. 39.

I keep coming up with the same answer.

Hell no!

Trump: an unconventional former president, too?

Retirement has bestowed a lot of idle time on my hands, and my mind. Thus, I am able to spend a good bit of it pondering things that don’t usually concern most folks, such as those who are still working for a living.

For instance, I have begun pondering what kind of former president Donald John Trump will become once he vacates the White House for the final time.

Hey, I don’t think I am getting ahead of myself. His time is coming. It might be after one term; it might be sooner than that. Or it might be after — God help us! — a second term as president.

He’s been hands-down the most unconventional president in anyone’s memory. My creaky old bones tell me he’ll be an unconventional former president, too.

Do not expect to see Donald Trump devote his time to worthy causes. He didn’t have time prior to becoming president to devote a moment of effort other than to fattening his bank account. Self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement is this guy’s game.

He won’t build houses for poor folks around the world, as President Carter has done. He isn’t likely to establish a foundation aimed at furthering a whole host of causes worldwide, as President Clinton has done. Do not expect him to lend emotional support to our wounded veterans, as President George W. Bush has done. And don’t expect him to advance the cause of youthful empowerment, as President Obama is doing.

The late President Bush 41 vowed to remain quiet politically once he left office. He remained faithful to his pledge. President Nixon resigned in disgrace, but then emerged as a sort of elder statesman toward the end of his life while he sought to rebuild his shattered image after Watergate.

I suppose Donald Trump will continue to do whatever it is he did before he became president. He’ll wheel and deal for commercial property. He’ll play lots of golf at any of his posh resorts.

And oh yes . . . he’ll exercise his Twitter account.

I also am fairly confident in proclaiming that should Donald Trump lose his re-election effort in 2020 that he won’t go quietly into the night. Do you remember when Bill Clinton turned the White House over to George W. Bush and members of the 42nd president’s staff removed the “W” from keyboards inside the White House? The Bushkins were aghast. There well could be something of a scorched-Earth departure from the White House if Donald Trump happens to get beat next year.

Whenever his departure occurs, I do not expect this individual to slide gracefully into post-presidential retirement.

Ugghhh!

Jimmy Carter: longevity record-setter

Jimmy Carter served a single term as president of the United States. He won the office in a bit of a nail-biter in 1976, defeating incumbent President Gerald Ford.

President Carter lost his re-election bid four years later in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.

He has lived with a decidedly mixed presidential legacy ever since. However, let it be here as the former president becomes the oldest living former president that his legacy is destined to improve as time continues to march on.

President Carter on Friday will surpass the late President George H.W. Bush as the oldest former president. The 39th president already holds the record for being having lived longer than anyone past the time he left the presidency.

I want to salute this good man because he stands in such a sharp contrast to what we are witnessing these days in the White House.

There was never a scandal to besmirch his administration. He vowed never to “lie” to us and as near as I can tell he kept that pledge. President Carter has lived a life according to the Scripture to which he has been devoted. He left office after a stunning landslide loss and then became arguably the most admired former president in recent history. He has built houses for underprivileged people worldwide for Habitat for Humanity. He founded the Carter Center in Atlanta, using the center as a forum to promote free and fair elections and to be a watchdog on behalf of human rights, one of the hallmark themes of his presidency.

I know the president had a mixed record as our head of state. He did, though, broker a permanent peace deal between Israel and Egypt. Yes, he launched that ill-fated mission to rescue Americans held captive in Iran and struggled for 444 days trying to negotiate those who were taken hostage by Iranian radicals in November 1979.

All of that and a floundering economy contributed to his crushing defeat. He left office as proud as he was when he entered it and has gone on to live a modest life in his beloved Plains, Ga. He is still teaching Sunday school at his church and has battled cancer.

He is a champion worthy of admiration of a nation he led.

Congratulations, Mr. President.

Jimmy Carter: embodiment of public service, humanity

Former President Jimmy Carter is resting tonight in a hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where he collapsed doing the Lord’s work.

He was working on a construction site for Habitat for Humanity, an organization with which he has been associated since leaving the presidency in January 1981.

President Carter, who’s 92 years of age, holds an unusual record as the former president who’s lived more years after leaving the White House than any of his predecessors.

My point here, though, is to make two make comments.

One is that this man has done more for humankind since leaving the pinnacle of power than any of the men who preceded him — or succeeded him.

My second point is to scold those who continue to hold Jimmy Carter up as some sort of model of fecklessness. He deserves nothing of that kind of treatment.

His defeat for re-election was stunning in its scope. Ronald Reagan swept him out of office by winning 44 states in a landslide of historic proportions. How was that possible? Because The Gipper and his campaign team managed to lay all of the nation’s troubles at Carter’s feet.

The Iranian hostage crisis dragged on for 444 days, beginning in November 1979. President Carter’s team worked tirelessly during that entire time to negotiate the release of the individuals held captive by those radicals who passed themselves off as “students.” Yes, we experienced that tragic failed rescue attempt in April 1980 that ended with planes crashing in the desert and eight Air Force Special Forces troops dying in the inferno. Was that the president’s fault? Did he err in attempting such a daring rescue? That debate will continue for as long as human beings are alive to debate it.

The blame is a consequence of failure, fair or not.

The president, though, did manage to broker a Middle East peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. The treaty stands to this day, thanks to the tireless work done at Camp David by Jimmy Carter, who browbeat, cajoled and persuaded Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to sign the deal — and then shake hands in 1978 in that epic White House photo op.

That handshake, though, had its consequences. President Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by Islamic extremists who hated him for seeking peace with Israel. Indeed, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin would be killed in 1995 by a Zionist extremist who loathed the warrior Rabin for the handshake he had at the White House with PLO leader Yasser Arafat after another deal brokered by President Bill Clinton.

Jimmy Carter, I submit, does not deserve to be scorned the way he has been by Republicans and assorted Democrats over the years.

I’ll concede he won’t be ranked as the greatest of the great U.S. presidents. He had his flaws — as all human beings have them.

However, the humanity this great man has demonstrated over many decades gives him a special place in my own heart.

President Carter has preached to his fellow Habitat for Humanity workers to stay hydrated. He collapsed from, get this, dehydration.

Listen to yourself, Mr. President. And get better. This dangerous and hostile world still needs you.